Opinion: Huntsman's Failure Shows GOP's Extremism Problem

Saturday, November 26, 2011 - 11:06 AM

Republican Jon Huntsman speaks during a press conference to announce his bid for the presidency at Liberty State Park June 21, 2011 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

It’s only a matter of time before it’s Rick Santorum’s turn.

Why not? Why shouldn’t Rick get his moment at the head of the GOP pack? The merry-go-round of candidates who have shared the top spot alongside Mitt Romney has now stopped on Newt Gingrich, but can’t last for long. If his moral foibles, Fanny/Freddie lobbying and unpopular history don’t sink him, the all-too-reasonable position on immigration he voiced in last week’s debate will. Which means he’ll follow Bachmann, Perry and Cain into the dustbin of discarded demagogues.

The GOP's right wing will look for a new savior, and since nobody else is lining up to jump in the race, give Santorum a second look. Just don’t give him a look on Google given how his name has been turned against him.

Aside from being a loser – he did fall to a Democrat and seemingly into irrelevance mere years ago – he strikes the right profile: He talks family and morals and values voters and is unapologetic about socially conservative stances far to the right of the mainstream.

With six weeks until the Iowa Caucus, there’s still time for Santorum’s turn.

In addition to genuinely conservative credentials, it’s also a process of elimination, and there’s no way Ron Paul or John Huntsman will rise to the Anybody But Romney pedestal. The fact that neither the consistently libertarian Congressman or moderate former Governor is considered viable in this primary is the biggest indication of the problem plaguing the Republican Party - a problem that should concern Americans of all political stripes.

Ron Paul has been on this journey before. In 2008, his money bombs showed passionate support, and supposedly The Tea Party embraced his principles as they emerged as a force (and helped elect his son to the Senate).

However, the Tea Party isn’t truly comfortable with his brand of libertarianism. They boo him over foreign policy – whether his calls to bring the troops home or to let Israel fend for itself. And his uncompromising message about social services is too far afield for more practical-minded conservatives who keep their plans to end Medicare and Social Security quiet.

If Ron Paul, after a relatively high-profile bid in 2008, couldn’t get traction with the Tea Party this time around, then he never will.

Huntsman is a different case. When progressives watch GOP debates, they wonder who that likable, reasonable fellow is and what he’s doing on that stage. His 1 percent poll number means a lot Republicans wonder that as well. His appeal to moderates is exactly why he’s floundering. From the moment he tweeted his support of scientists on climate change and evolution, he doomed his candidacy.

So why does he stay in? Maybe he’s betting that the GOP will implode this election and realize it needs to escape from the grip of the right-wing extremists. And if a newly-empowered moderate faction rises, he’ll be the obvious choice to be its leader. It’s a bet not for 2012, but for positioning for 2016 or 2020, and a gamble that the GOP party makes room for moderates again.

America would be better served by a second major party that had room for scientists, immigrants and atheists somewhere in its ranks. Our country would be served by a collaborator in governing that seeks solutions and is willing to compromise, qualities the president embodies but has not found in his dance partners. Governor Huntsman looks like that type of figure – if he can ever find his way to the top of the GOP heap.

And if he can’t – he’ll become a Democrat, as so many other moderate Republicans have during the Bush Administration and rise of the Tea Party. All of which makes the Democrats a broader tent and all the more willing to compromise…which is dangerous if the other side never comes halfway.

We need Huntsman to remain a Republican and a Republican Party that wants John Huntsman.

In the meantime, we have a party that’s waiting to give Rick Santorum his 15 minutes of fame.

Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."


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Comments [10]

JTWilliams from Kalamazoo, MI

Cmon, Jon Huntsman? Since he entered the race for the nomination, Huntsman has looked like a cookie-cutter candidate- a complete phoney. As if, before announcing his candidacy, he had a PR firm do research on what one-liners to say, what jokes to use, and (as I've heard somewhere before) how not to offend the ladies on The View.
Plus, the fact that alot of the elitists and media types fawned over him was not good for his image.

Nevertheless, I certainly like him more than that bloated gasbag Newt Gingrich. I mean, Huntsman is no conservative stalwart, but neither is Gingrich (have you read the man's writings)?

Dec. 03 2011 03:20 AM
Mark Kleinsmith from Omaha

The dems are more accepting of a wider spectrum of political views in there party...and I think that is a good thing. However, an important time in recent history shows that it doesn't mean moderate rational forces will win out when developing policy...that point was Obama abdicating key policy initiatives to Pelosi (the dems version of Perry, Bachman, Gingrich) for the first two years of his presidency.

Nov. 29 2011 09:53 AM
Sanjay from Boston

Obama = Romney = Perry = Cain = Gingrich = GOP = Democrats. Different puppets, same deceitful/ traitorous Federal Reserve/Bankster masters.

Gingrich, Perry, Romney, Cain = medical care dictatorship, $16-Trillion/bailouts, endless wars/empire, free health/education/food/house/amnesty for 3rd world invaders, racist quotas, bankster funded campaign. Thats not all.

Gingrich = endless wives, $1.8-Million Freddie-mac bribe.

Cain = Kansas Federal Reserve thug, "Libya swirls in my head", unauthorized finger in panties.

Romney = abortion, gun control.

Perry = Gardasil for little girls, "ni**erhead" on farm, "oops, whats the 3rd one?", "Bank-of-America helping him out".

End the wars/empire, end the federal reserve/IMF/World Bank/BIS/UN/WTO, end racist quotas, end TSA/DHS/ADL/SPLC and other Orwellian crime syndicates.

Ron Paul will restore sound money, strong national defense, liberty, free enterprise, local government, strong traditional families, Western Civilization.

Nov. 26 2011 04:33 PM
Naql from San Antonio

And do not forget Gary Johnson, the successful 2 term gov of New Mexico. Ron Paul is 76 and there needs to be some thought about who can represent Libertarianism next. Gov Johnson has sane, practical ideas, many of which overlap with Ron Paul's. He's more socially Iibertarian. Check out

Nov. 26 2011 02:28 PM

In related news: Ron Paul in firm lead in Iowa.
I guess you'll have to re-write this article to accurately portray REALITY...

Nov. 26 2011 01:25 PM
Brian Horsfield

The support for Ron Paul this time around is broadening with many more independents and disillusioned Democrats coming over to support him. The telephone pollsters don't bother call registered Democrats in their polling. But when they do, as in a recent poll in Iowa, Ron Paul has a 4 percent lead.

Nov. 26 2011 01:00 PM
J. Bock

I dont know if it really says a lot about the extremism. I think it says more about Huntsman. He appears to be a very nice and thoughtful guy. Not a philosopher or anything, but a nice balanced fella. But not a leader at all. I think if they could find a middle of the road Huntsman with more charisma the GOP would be jumping up and down with excitement. Of course, I am fine with this situation. Ron Paul 2012!

Nov. 26 2011 12:30 PM
Bill Dowder from New York

The article is flawed. High profile bid in 2008? That's laughable, as it was anything but high-profile. The Tea Party boos his foreign policy? What Tea Party event were you at? Oh, you don't cite any actual Tea Party event. This is weak journalism at best under the guise of being called an "opinion". I made the mistake in 08 of writing Paul off because the media told me to, well not this time. Ron Paul is miles ahead of the others on all the major issues. It's Ron Paul or more of the same old. Government workers donate more to Ron Paul than any other Republican. Active military donate more to Ron Paul than all the other Republicans combined.

Nov. 26 2011 12:08 PM

"Ron Paul has been on this journey before.... and supposedly The Tea Party embraced his principles as they emerged as a force..."

This statement and opinion piece is riddled with inaccuracies, the quote above being one of the most blatant; it demonstrates the short-sightedness of the American populace who can't even sort through the last four years of recent history.

Mainstream media and the Tea Party itself need constant reminding that Ron Paul's 2008 bid for the GOP nomination is what launched the Tea Party movement; in December 2007, his supporters held a money-bomb fundraiser on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Unfortunately, the movement was hijacked by neo-cons.

It only takes a few milliseconds to find these facts on Google.

Nov. 26 2011 12:03 PM
Blonduxo from Seattle

"...there’s no way Ron Paul or John Huntsman will rise to the Anybody But Romney pedestal..."

You think that just by saying that it makes it so.

Wrongo! The People have a voice here, and as you have expressed your opinion here is mine:

Ron Paul 2012 Elect the best man for the job, do not listen to what certain people say about electability...why do you think we are in the mess we are in? Don't vote for a plastic man vote for a statesman with integrity.

Nov. 26 2011 11:41 AM

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